A few days ago, New York Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza got incensed about charter schools drawing self-flattering comparisons between their performance and that of public schools. “Don’t talk about our schools,” Carranza lectured. “Because our schools belong to the community, and we’re going to do what we need to do to support our schools.”
De Blasio echoed Carranza’s comments Wednesday, “contending that public schools don’t properly market themselves and that the Department of Education plans to bolster branding,” as The Post reported. Yes, “branding” is apparently what ails New York’s failing schools.
Such inane rhetoric fails to mask the daily ineptitude and inattention to detail that impede education progress under de Blasio. Even when he knows where he wants to go, the mayor has absolutely no idea how to get there.
I just had a run-in with these failures. I’m pretty Internet-savvy, yet after hours of trying, I couldn’t figure out if I had registered my 5-year-old to take the Gifted & Talented test. The Web site provided no assurance that I had completed the process, nor did I get a confirmation e-mail. The page appeared to have been designed by someone who’d never seen, much less designed, a Web site before.
I contacted my friend, schools expert Alina Adams, who runs NYCSchoolSecrets.com and is the author of “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten.” She told me she was fielding many questions like mine, and suggested I e-mail the DOE for confirmation that my registration had worked. I did, and got an e-mail back a few days later telling me I had indeed registered my son.
Not every parent has the time to invest in figuring out if they have successfully navigated the DOE’s impossibly bad Web site. And not everyone has a support network that includes the likes of Adams.
When we talk about giving all kids the opportunity to succeed, something as small as Web design can stand in the way. And the trouble with the G&T test registration this year is just a snapshot of the bigger issues facing our schools.
Take the move to create “racially balanced” middle schools in District 15 in Brooklyn. Few people in the ultraliberal district, which includes Park Slope, would object to more racial integration. In fact, the plan was written by neighborhood activists, but with heavy involvement by the DOE.
And the details of the plan are comically absurd. It forces the middle schools to run a lottery for admissions — the equivalent of throwing something at the wall and seeing if it sticks.
The approach means a sixth-grader could be traveling to a school nowhere near his home. The New Voices School, which is devoted to arts and music, will no longer be allowed to audition students. Schools won’t be able to consider high academic achievement. It’s all random. And that’s somehow going to be a win for diversity.
Instead of forcing kids into this convoluted system, why not just have zoned middle schools that pull from a few different neighborhoods?
The de Blasio administration is in court fighting for a similar crackpot scheme to alter the admissions standards for specialized high schools like Stuyvesant. Again, the mayor again knows what he wants — a different racial balance — but his plans to get there may end up destroying all of these schools in the process.
When the de Blasio administration isn’t implementing ill-conceived plans for middle schools and specialized high schools, it’s finding various ways of tossing money out the proverbial window in the name of helping.
The Post has reported repeatedly on the continual failure of the “renewal program” that was supposed to improve the Big Apple’s most struggling schools. Dozens of pieces every year highlighted the failures, yet the administration continued to throw more money at the problem.
A 2015 Post editorial pointed out that the program was producing no real improvements. A 2016 opinion piece by Jeremiah Kittredge noted that only three of the 94 targeted schools were meeting benchmarks. Reporters Bruce Golding and Susan Edelman broke the story in 2017 on how consultants of the program were pocketing vast amounts of money for no improvements.
The $750 million spent on the program has mostly gone to waste, and more than a dozen of these schools have been closed. The mayor might be eyeing a bigger national role for himself, but his performance in New York has shown he will only survive on the national stage as long as there isn’t any actual work required. He’ll boast about his big plans but rarely bother with the details.
Look to New York schools to see how well that works out.
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